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10.14.01 : Ransom, John Crowe, with Donald Davidson, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, Andrew Lytle, Frank Owsley, Lyle Lanier, Herman Nixon, John Wade, Henry Kline, John Fletcher and Stark Young, I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition, published in 1930, by Harper & Brothers.

Notes Concerning the Authors.

Each of the twelve men cited as authors of I’ll Take My Stand were “Southerners, well acquainted with one another and of similar tastes” — having been drawn together by a common interest in literature.  Ten of them had ties to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee (all but Fletcher and Young).  Four of them (Ransom, Davidson, Tate and Warren) had been “Fugitive Poets,” a 1920’s literary group at Vanderbilt.  Many had grown up far removed from a Southern City and five had grown up on the family farm (Lytle, Owsley, Lanier, Lytle and Kline).

Each man, drawing on his personal experiences and study as of early 1930, and reflecting on struggles observed between the fading agrarian life style and the surging industrial life style, wrote his essay on a related topic.  As a result, I’ll Take My Stand is, on the surface, twelve essays bound together into one book.  But you will find them connected thematically and the jointly written “Introduction: A Statement of Principles” provides an overview of their common beliefs concerning important values in the Agrarian Tradition of the Southern States, which, they submitted, society needed to preserve, where possible, to the promote happiness among the people. 


The year 1930 was a frightful time in the United States.  In the previous 10 years, the 1920’s, dubbed “The Roaring Twenties,” rapid industrialization had transformed much of society, drawing many from small family farms into industrial factories, many leaving the southern States for the northern States, only to suffer massive layoffs following the crash of the Stock Market in October 1929.  During the past dozen years, the American Communist Party had played a significant role in forming confrontational labor unions and agitating against free enterprise.  Socialists had been about the country creating more unrest, especially in the northern States.  Communists had taken control of Russia 13 years earlier and were struggling against Socialists and Adloph Hitler’s Nazis in a fight for control of Germany, creating great concerns in Europe, where a major economic depression was beginning to seize upon society.  Hitler and the Nazis would take control in 3 short years and redirect the nation’s powerful industrial sector toward a huge military buildup. 

There were already signs that the worldwide infatuation with massive industrialization would be redirected toward production of huge stockpiles of “modern” weapons of war (bomber and fighter aircraft and aircraft carriers; submarines and an array of naval ships; tanks, advanced artillery and machine guns; stockpiles of bombs and ammo, and fuels, rubber and lubricants to keep it all running).  There were already concerns that the Great War would be renamed World War I. 

The agrarian life style, the family farm, seemed a happy retreat from the worldwide threats to human-kind perceived in 1930, as the Great Depression loomed and the industrial world’s out-of-work began to become homeless and hungry.  And this reviewer’s introduction, this setting of the scene, is important, because to understand history you need to live it.  In other words, if you read the twelve essays in I’ll Take My Stand from a 2013 perspective you will completely misunderstand the message.  So prepare first.  Put yourself in the year 1930 in a southern State, like Tennessee, and study the essays from that perspective.

The Twelve Essays are as follows:

  • John Crowe Ransom:  “Reconstructed but Unregenerate”.
  • Donald Davidson:   “A Mirror for Artists”.
  • Frank Laurence Owsley:  “The Irrepressible Conflict”.
  • John Gould Fletcher:  “Education, Past and Present”.
  • Lyle H. Lanier:  “A Critique of the Philosophy of Progress”.
  • Allen Tate:  “Remarks on the Southern Religion”.
  • Herman Clarence Nixon:  “Whither Southern Economy”.
  • Andrew Nelson Lytle:  “The Hind Tit”.
  • Robert Penn Warren:  “The Briar Patch”.
  • John Donald Wade:  “The Life and Death of Cousin Lucius”.
  • Henry Blue Kline:  “William Remington: A Study in Individualism”.
  • Stark Young:  “Not in Memoriam, But In Defense”.

This reviewer’s favorite of the twelve essays is Lytle’s “The Hind Tit,” so he will present a brief abstract of this essay, space in the Society website not allowing more than this one.

In the first section of “The Hind Tit,” we read Lytle’s analysis of the dangers attendant to rampant industrialization.  Two quotes suffice:

  • “Since 1865 an agrarian Union has been changed into an industrial empire bent on conquest of the earth’s goods and ports to sell them in.  This means warfare, a struggle over markets, leading, in the end, to actual military conflict between nations.”
  • “The escape is not in socialism, in communism, or in sovietism — the three final stages industrialism must take.  These change merely the manner and speed of the suicide; they do not alter its nature.”

In the second section we read Lytle’s presentation of the agrarian life-style in Rutherford County, Tennessee, that being typical of Middle Tennessee and the site of the farm life of his youth.  Furthermore, his account is so very meaningful to this reviewer, whose father likewise spent his youth on a Rutherford County farm near Murfreesboro, and whose grandfather, during the 1920’s, leased out the farm and, like so many Southern folk, moved north to labor in the industrial economy, in his case at a Ford Motor Company factory in Detroit, Michigan, not to return to resume farming until the massive layoffs that followed the Crash of 1929.  Over the course of 18 pages, Lytle immerses the reader in a detailed account of Middle Tennessee farm life.  This is a must read!  At one point Lytle explains why most of Tennessee fared better than the States to the south after the conquest of the Confederacy:

  • “Tennessee has never been given over to any one money crop.  It has looked upon its land to sustain its culture, and from the beginning has diversified according to its needs.  Serving as a furnishing state to the cotton regions, when these regions were overturned, it naturally stood the shock better than they.”

The third and last section moves naturally to Lytle’s recommendations regarding how the small farmer should respond to advancing industrialization in the Southern States.

  • Do not be “concentrated on the money crop,” for that leads to “over-production and its twin, price deflation; [and] those who insist on the progressive-farmer ideal realize this.”  Furthermore, “the factory can close down to meet over-production and feed the market with its stock on hand,” unlike the farmer stuck with his perishable produce.
  • Avoid the trap of being forced to pay high taxes, because, in predominantly agricultural regions, “the great burden of direct and indirect taxation” falls upon “real property, which is largely farmlands or property dependent on farming produce, [and] which bears 90 percent of the taxation and receives 10 percent of the income.”
  • Avoid buying gadgets you do not need: “Throw out the radio and take down the fiddle from the wall.  Forsake the movies for the play-parties and the square dances.”
  • Seek better family happiness in the simple farm life: “Any man who grows his own food, kills his own meat, takes wool from his lambs and cotton from his stalks and makes them into clothes, plants corn and hay for his stock, shoes them at the crossroads blacksmith shop, draws milk and butter from his cows, eggs from his pullets, water from the ground, and fuel from the woodlot, can live in an industrial world without a great deal of cash.”
  • And what about that “hind tit?”  That is in reference to the runt piglet struggling to survive among a litter of aggressive siblings.  In Lytle’s words, the small farmer “has turned into the runt pig in the sow’s litter.  Squeezed and tricked out of the best places at the side, he is forced to take the hind tit for nourishment; and here, struggling between the sow’s back legs, he has to work with every bit of his strength to keep it from being a dry one, and all because the suck of the others is so unreservedly gluttonous.”

At the start of this review, you were encouraged to mentally transport yourself back to the era of the late “Roaring 20’s” and the crash of 1929, so as to understand more clearly the messages in I’ll Take My Stand.”  But, before concluding these remarks, it is not inappropriate to reflect on American agriculture and industry today.  According to the 2010 census, less than 6 percent of Americans are supported by those who work in the mining, construction and manufacturing sectors (people who make things) and less than 1.5 percent are supported by those who work in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors (people who grow things).  So why should we be concerned today over the 1930 debate over agrarianism versus industrialism when it involves less than 7.5 percent of American workers?  What happened?  Did the demise of both sources of employment make for better or worse happiness among American families?  What about the future of the children? 

This reviewer was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1938, attended Vanderbilt University, received a degree in chemical engineering in 1960 and was engaged throughout his working life in support of improving America’s industrial sector.  Now 75 years old, he has witnessed much that is helpful in answering the question posed in the previous paragraph.  For your answers, he suggests you read elsewhere.  

Availability of this Book.

You can easily find paperback reprints of this book.  There is no Kindle edition, but digital scanned versions can probably be found.  In any event, the Society recommends acquiring a paperback reprint.  See